Digital media industry trends, February & March 2021

We’ve got a ton of industry updates, insider looks, and content resources we can’t wait to share with you in today’s digital media industry update. Let’s jump right in! In this edition, you’ll find: How CafeMedia is making our ad...

By Anna Blender

We’ve got a ton of industry updates, insider looks, and content resources we can’t wait to share with you in today’s digital media industry update. Let’s jump right in!

In this edition, you’ll find:

  • How CafeMedia is making our ad performance diagnostics even smarter
  • A peek into our new ad code testing process that’s resulting in faster releases and higher RPMs
  • Three recent ad code integrations that are making CafeMedia publishers more money today
  • A look at how we’ll give feedback as Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals move to testing & experimentation
  • Google’s Core Web Vitals are coming in May’s algorithm change and CafeMedia ads will be ready
  • Your guide to trending content topics for March 2021

Advertising trends

2021 continues to shape up relatively strongly, and across the CafeMedia network we’re seeing strong year-over-year RPM improvements compared to last year. 

2020 also started strong (until Covid changed everything), so it’s great to see advertiser enthusiasm recovering this year. 

Making our ad performance diagnostics even smarter

It’s great to celebrate strong revenue across our network of publishers — it shows us that overall, all the behind-the-scenes investments, technology work, advertiser relationships, etc., are paying off for the vast majority of CafeMedia publishers! 

That said, averages don’t tell the full story for every site. 

As the CafeMedia community has grown (now over 3,000 of the internet’s best publishers across a huge diversity of verticals and audiences), we see a wider range of performance across publishers. 

Individual publishers can see a completely different revenue story at any given time, and our job is to go beyond network optimizations and focus on custom solutions for every CafeMedia site.

So far in 2021, the CafeMedia data team has built a groundbreaking series of new “early warning systems” that let us diagnose ad performance fluctuations in minute detail, faster than ever. 

The CafeMedia ad performance experts dig into the data and on-page experience for underperforming sites to diagnose challenges and prescribe solutions — whether ad optimizations we can suggest or make, or traffic patterns and other on-page reasons we can share with publishers. 

We’ve always taken a hands-on approach to our partnership, but our new diagnostic systems give us even more precision this year! 

We believe that close monitoring of sites (by smart systems AND human eyes) and proactive maintenance is one of the best ways to keep our publishers’ revenue at optimal levels.

Taking CafeMedia ad code testing to a whole new level

In addition to the great work our data team has been producing, our ad code team has been hard at work on dozens of behind-the-scenes enhancements to CafeMedia’s ad code, Nucleus. 

While we may be a little bit biased, we’re confident our ad code developers are the best in the business, and here’s why:

Our ad code team not only works hard behind the scenes on CafeMedia improvements, but they lead industry trends in publisher-oriented organizations like 

Ås a result, CafeMedia publishers are always on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest industry code improvements, because in many cases, our team was responsible for creating those new standards.

Recently, we dramatically rebuilt the way we release new ad code across our network, rolling out a new system of flexible deployments. 

Before we make any changes to code on publishers’ sites, we run a battery of tests to ensure that code changes:

  • Drive incremental revenue for our publishers
  • Are SEO-friendly and fast to load
  • Don’t interfere with anything else running on our publishers’ sites
  • Don’t negatively impact any key advertising metrics

We first run Alpha and Beta testing against our own test websites. 

Then we deploy the code on a very small percentage of traffic across our network in what we call “Silver Testing”. Our data science team analyzes the results to ensure that the code is behaving as expected and not causing any negative impacts.

Once the code has passed Silver Testing, we move it to “Gold Testing” where we increase the percent of traffic that the code is running on. It’s still a small fraction of total network traffic, but gives us an even better view of how the code is performing and allows us to get deep measurements into the incremental revenue that the code drives.

Again our data science team runs a new analysis to ensure that all metrics are moving the right way. Then the code gets deployed out to all publisher sites and you earn more money!

Previously, our code system had a fixed number of Silver and Gold testing groups we could deploy, which made managing things simple, but limited the amount of simultaneous tests we could run. 

We’ve made huge recent advances to our “Flex Deployment” system, allowing us to increase the number of tests whenever we want and run far more simultaneous tests than before.

In just the first two weeks of these improvements going live, our team was able to deploy literally twice as many code changes as the prior two weeks! Every day we’re pushing new code to this testing system so our publishers remain at the forefront of the latest developments.

This is money in our publishers’ pockets, allowing the leading ad code team in the industry to massively expedite ad code releases and drive the maximum RPMs.

Three recent ad code integrations that make CafeMedia publishers more money

So what has the ad code team improved recently?

I’m glad you asked.

1. Identity generalization. When we launched our first-to-market partnership with LiveRamp in 2020, we started by using their infrastructure for email identity. This allowed us to move quickly but wasn’t our long-term solution. 

Now, we’ve upgraded our systems so our own infrastructure is performing email identity conversions on all opted-in publisher websites, and then passing these identifiers to LiveRamp and other partners. 

We can quickly and easily plug into a number of other identity platforms, allowing for some extra features down the road. Keep an eye out for some exciting new partnerships coming soon in this area, as well as huge plans around helping our publishers build their email lists and deepen their connection with readers.

2. JW Boost. CafeMedia publishers benefit from our strong partnerships with leading experts in various fields. JW Player provides the video player and video infrastructure for most of our publishers and their unique platform, JW Boost, lets us connect to a wide variety of other advertising partners for video. 

Other ad platforms that don’t partner with JW Player can’t access this platform, so CafeMedia publishers now benefit from a unique and much broader pool of video advertisers, driving video revenue even higher this year! 

3. Deep Intent. We also recently launched a partnership with healthcare marketing platform Deep Intent, which specializes in advertising for pharmaceutical and medical companies. The “drugs and supplements” category of advertising represents a huge industry, and one of the largest spenders on advertising overall. 

This new partnership will grow the spend in that category directly into CafeMedia publishers’ RPMs.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox moves many proposals into the testing & feedback phase

As you’ve probably heard, Google’s Privacy Sandbox is a group of over two dozen different proposals designed to rebuild digital advertising without third-party cookies.

That’s a tall order, as the ways advertisers target audiences today, deliver ads on the page, and get performance reporting all rely on third-party cookies. 

These proposals are being discussed and hashed out in industry organizations like the W3C, where our team is able to be closely involved and give direct feedback on solutions that work best for publishers!

Now, many of the proposals in the Privacy Sandbox are entering the live testing and experimentation phase, and we’re working with our ad tech partners and with Google to gather data and understand impact.

It’s still early days for the Privacy Sandbox, but our close involvement will let us keep you updated as things unfold!

Content trends

Google algorithm change is coming in May & incorporating “Core Web Vitals”

And your CafeMedia ads will be ready.

As always, making sure CafeMedia publishers earn the highest ad revenue is our highest priority — and traffic plays an integral part in that. We’ve been doing extensive testing and partnering with top technical SEO and site optimization experts to help CafeMedia publishers prepare for this Google search algorithm change.

On top of the traditional ranking signals that Google uses to show the best match in search results, Google will also incorporate three new metrics that aim to quantify user experience. 

These signals are called Core Web Vitals and aim to measure how a site loads (using Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP), how a site becomes interactive (using FIrst Input Delay, or FID), and how visually stable a site is (using Cumulative Layout Shift, or CLS).

Traditionally, programmatic advertising isn’t great for CLS, as you’ve probably experienced across the web. The programmatic auction that allows multiple sizes of ads to compete (earning you more!) can also cause shifts on the page as an ad slot transitions from a short to a taller ad, or vice versa. 

The good news is that we have some great, innovative ways to address this — and we’ll be sharing more soon!

On top of that, March will be “Core Web Vitals Month” here at CafeMedia, with lots of resources, guides, and handy tips to help publishers give readers the best possible site experience.

Trending topics for March 2021

Get a head start on the top seven trends we expect to see increased traffic and interest in March, like the rise of the fake commute. (Who knew people would miss sitting in traffic?)

Hitting the right topics at the right time = more traffic and more ad revenue!